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The Liberal Agenda – Te Papa Gallipoli: The Scale Of Our War

By   /  January 22, 2019  /  13 Comments

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It’s an important exhibit to attend because it shows us how far we have yet to go in being honest about our history and being able to distill truth and wisdom from that honesty. 

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Went to Wellington last week and took my daughter to Te Papa for her school holidays.

Had the opportunity to go to the Gallipoli exhibit to see how we mark momentous events that are beyond our social imagination and day to day community lived experience.

It was. Sadly. What I expected.

I’ve always felt we are a petty and socially awkward people, ground down by insecurities and a cultural shallowness that revels in the unsophisticated. We mistake that revelry as being laid back when it’s really a gleeful anti-intellectualism.

I mean The Project manages to find an entire room full of visitors who are prepared to watch their show live each evening and nothing heralds cosmopolitan crucifixion  quite like The Project.

Well, maybe The AM Show.

When we book burn, it’s done leisurely around a BBQ.

I appreciate the difficulty for a juvenile country with all the maturity of a can of day old coke to reflect with any insight on its own culture. We only recently managed to recognise the tyranny at Parihaka 140 years after it took place, so attempting to bring comprehension to a brutal war where the youngest and brightest of our nation were butchered in what was us invading another country was always going to be an enormous ask we simply can’t carry out yet.

We are unable to be honest about the signing of the Treaty, so World War One was always going to be a beach too far. Figuratively and literally.

Sure, it’s got all the Weta Workshop geekery, with cool examples of how different types of ammunition maim the human body. It has the fetish of war re-enactments perfectly constructed down to the tiniest detail, but it avoided the grim stupidity of the war, the meaninglessness of the sacrifice and what exactly we have learnt from it.

Then there are the huge sculptures, stuck in a moment minus the context, minus the noise of war, minus the horror.

Frozen seconds on which to project vacant suburban meaning into.

I wondered how the glorious dead would feel knowing the violence that stole their lives ended up being some grim amusement park of war where over awed tourists tried to remain solemn for a thing they didn’t really understand.

Like wide eyed sheep passing through the Louvre.

It’s an important exhibit to attend because it shows us how far we have yet to go in being honest about our history and being able to distill truth and wisdom from that honesty.

I feel we have yet to understand the message the dead groan at us from the grave.


In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved, and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe To you from failing hands we throw The torch, be yours to hold it high If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.

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  1. John W says:

    Wars enable the stealing of land, resources and power to be vested into the hands of a few meanwhile many thousands or millions on both sides pay dearly and get little but sorrow..

    The Horror of the existence of such psychopathic cabals is sidetracked by tokenism of such exhibitions.

    Mind numbing and very misleading. The tiny detail end of a much much bigger and horrifying picture that keeps repeating.

  2. Janio says:

    Moving blog, you say important things about us Martyn.

    The national mindset glorifying the war in Europe is particularly stupid in our WW2 memory. More of our troops went to the Middle East & Europe than the Pacific and we ignore/forget the crucial battles won in the Pacific, the battle of Coral Sea & the Battle of Medway. More important to our survival than Gallipoli.

  3. Brutus Iscariot says:

    This was a thoughtful, rueful, and beautiful piece of writing.

    Who is behind “The Liberal Agenda” pseudonym?

  4. esoteric pineapples says:

    “Unreal City,
    Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
    A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
    I had not thought death had undone so many.
    Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
    And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
    Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
    To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
    With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.”

    T. S. Eliot
    The Wasteland

  5. GreenBus says:

    Peter Jackson isn’t it. Unfortunately a kiwi fuckwit, printing money on the memories of our real hero’s. I’ve always found it hard to “celebrate” the Gallipolli side show, for that is what it was. Just a badly organised slaughterhouse for the main event, and what a cockup the brits made of it. Our mates across the ditch paid a terrible cost as we did, and it end up a humiliating defeat by the clever turks who by the way are no enemy of ours. What’s to celebrate? I can’t get my head around it

  6. John W says:

    If Jackson spent time putting together a documentary on the cause of wars, exposing the key players and networks of connections they employ, the role of propaganda and how that is constructed and delivered to a public who have been groomed to receive, then their may be some merit in his dollar gathering.

  7. D'Esterre says:

    John W: “If Jackson spent time putting together a documentary on the cause of wars, exposing the key players and networks of connections they employ, the role of propaganda and how that is constructed and delivered to a public who have been groomed to receive, then their may be some merit in his dollar gathering.”

    Exactly. He could, for instance and just to begin with, pay attention to the US’s warmongering in various South American polities over many years, most recently in Venezuela. See this:


    I and others would be grateful if he would stay the hell out of anything to do with Gallipoli. Unless, of course, he were to produce a revisionist history. But then, others have been there before him….

  8. David G. says:

    The significance of the scale of our war, is for the most part , that the individuals experience get lost in the broad sweep of history, either that or they get cherry picked often to push a particular point of view. WW1 is rich in resource, the letters, diaries, and documents going someway to illustrating the impacts of warfare on those whom were there. Will we be served as well in 100 years of those whom have seen Afghanistan and Iraq? (Equally futile campaigns of aggression in foreign countries)

    The theme park approach to our collective history (Scale of erubus anyone? ) is that at gallipoli we collectively chose to be there part of our learning experience of a nation. As we did later in ww2 at greece and crete, and later vietnam, Afghanistan. In all those conflicts we chose to place our troops under foreign control, because ‘where they go, we go’ in let’s face it, adventurous militarism. Exhibitions of this type reflect the times that we live in today, one wonders how this exhibition would fair had it been attempted while first world war veterans were alive it wold have ben terrifying i imagine. In such conditions presented we can only marvel in the soldiers resiliency. Commorative activity often revolves around scale of suffering, wrapped up in wreaths, headstones, poppies and superlative figures. Perhaps the scale of war is a tribute to the individuals experience, the expressions, sweat and injuries now writ equally large. Perhaps that can be our take away, that these sufferings are as important as the anonymous legions of the dead.
    Perhaps missing from the exhibit was a representation of a politician, teeth gritted as he signs the declaration of war, or the handing over of control ( to one of any number of foreign powers where our men have fought and died.) Yes we should play our part and fight if we must but it should where ever possible be with caution and discretion. Now and in the future. Have we learnt that lesson?

  9. Nick J says:

    Criticism of Jackson with regards to this exhibition is pointless. Yes I know he is a selfish me firster prepared to take tax dollars and march against unions on Labour Day. Worse to me is how he turned a great novel into a special effects nightmare, and showcased our scenery as a backdrop. Great for tourism yes, but hell……

    In the case of The Papa we can see that Jackson and Weta are master craftspeople, it’s just that the subject matter might better be Maori Wars scenes, signing the Treaty, or perhaps the opening of the first state house.

    Gallipoli was an important moment in the development of us as a nation, but it tell little about us as two cultures married by circumstance navigating a difficult road together. That is something tourists, and new (recent) NZers need to show, and for the rest of us to celebrate.

    • simonm says:

      He’s more than a garden-variety welfare queen. 1600 employees subsidised to the tune of $30,000 EACH per annum and he still managed to find the spare change to buy himself an $80 million private jet.

      It ought to be enough to keep Jordan Williams and the “Taxpayers Union” busy for life, but they’ve been surprisingly quiet about the whole thing…

    • John W says:

      “Gallipoli was an important moment in the development of us as a nation”

      How many times we have been told that. Inaccurate and completely misleading statements glorifying a very sad and tragic stupidity we became a part of.

      Britain was after the resources of the Middle East with many clandestine players pushing for the capture of the Ottoman Empire controlled by Turkey. Turkey was a friend of Britain. That had to be changed so Britain confiscated two warships they were building for Turkey.
      The confiscation was unprovoked but did its intended task of creating hostility between Turkey and Britain. Turkey then sided with Germany so became a target for attack by Britain.

      Australia and NZ were stupid enough to fall into this mire created deliberately by British based financiers who were after the Middle East oil.
      Russia was fighting Germany but was keen to capture Turkey which would have given them an ice free port in the South. That was the last thing Britain wanted so Russia was pushed to battle with Germany while Britain launched a token assault on Turkey.
      Gallipoli was it.
      Purposefully rushed, badly planned to such an extent as to be acknowledge as deliberate using and ineffective commander previously given a desk to drive.
      Gallipoli landing was in the wrong place and strategically mismanaged and under resourced.
      Kiwis died but British corporates did get the oil.

      Britain already had their man in NZ. He was Bill Massey our then Prime Minister who was a declared British Israelite.

      His declaration of war was sickening. But when you look at surrounding events then the picture becomes clearer that this was not just a loyal and blind following of the ”mother country” to which a portion of population may have subscribed to.

      Many in NZ were fiercely anti Britain and journeyed here to escape the class wealth they dictated British lives.
      The Irish and Scots generally held a hostility to what Britain stood for and others here such as Dalmations, Slaves and Scandinavians were similarity not of a British Empire building mindset. Maori had no loyalty to Britain who had stolen their land and murdered thousands of their iwi.

      Propaganda was the tool used to support Massey’s unjustifiable rush to war.
      No consultation nor discussion. A rushed announcement set the train of slaughter in motion.

      What was behind this.


      Why was Massey acting as a stooge for Britain. Massey’s racism also included white supremacy in many of his statements.



      Propaganda being rife. Diversity of views suppressed. Massey backed by foreign interests and bizarre beliefs.



      A Kiwi perspective


      NZ became a pawn skillfully manipulated by wealthy powerful influences.

      Certainly not “ an important moment in the development of us as a nation.”

  10. peterlepaysan says:

    Gallipoli, and all of WW! was a Britsh Empereal war. WW2 was merely an inevitable coda to northern western european empirealism.

    ANZAC stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps.
    An army corps! Should that be corpse?
    NZ was a minor and (very obviously) part of a herd of colonial lower class colonials used as “cannon fodder” by British upper class twits.

    There was never any NZ necessity to be involved, in defence terms.

    Britain needed cannon fodder.

    At least by WW2 we had our own (tiny) defence forces with our own commanders standing up to british bullshit killing kiwis.

    • GreenBus says:

      Peterlepaysan very well said and of course the brit soldiers at Gallipolli paid the heaviest cost amongst the allies, wave after wave just mowed down to suit the generals of the day. Poor bastards, all of them.

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